An ex-Wallingford firefighter will serve a six month sentence at home for setting grass fires on federal land in Vermont. U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss said the crime of Matthew D. Burnham, 22, of Wallingford, was not of the nature for prison time.
Burnham set more than 20 grass fires around Wallingford in 2008. He pleaded guilty in court last week.
“I’m sorry for what I did... I’ve grown up a lot over the last three years...,” he told Judge Reiss.
The U.S. government had hoped for a jail sentence for Burnham and five other Wallingford firefighter.
Only Burnham and ex-firefighter Charles Woods had faced criminal charge. Under a judge’s ruling, Woods is required to pay a $2,000 fine and perform over 100 hours of community service.
The Wallingford arson scandal has deeply affected the community and created mistrust in its firefighting organization.
“This is a serious crime and a foolish crime committed by those who were expected to protect the public,” Reiss said during her ruling.
Reiss said there was no indication that Burnham was a pyromaniac. He apparently started the fires under peer pressure from the other firefighters.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Anika Frostick said it is unclear how the government will proceed with the Wallingford case now that Reiss ruled on Burnham’s charges.